Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reconfiguring Democracy

Even when I was a kid (and, yes, they had indoor plumbing back then) I understood that democracy, as we embraced it, was something of a work in progress.  It was never truly complete.  It was something that should advance and expand.  Every now and then something or someone would come along, a game changer for democracy.  In my lifetime it was Trudeau with his Just Society and his Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But as a history buff I also knew that Western democracy was an evolutionary thing that had suffered plenty of setbacks over the centuries.  There's been no shortage of would-be leaders who chafed at the restraints of democracy until they swept them aside.   And even the most democratic society accepts suspension of rights and freedoms as sometimes necessary in emergency situations.  Unfortunately this affords an opportunity for undemocratic types to exploit fears so that the public may accept the indefinite loss of  democratic freedoms.  Hitler did it.  So did Bush/Cheney with their Patriot Act.

In Western civilization there doesn't exist a single right or freedom that hasn't been paid for, in blood, often more than once.   Nor does there exist a single right or freedom that can't be quickly revoked or stolen if we are not vigilant in our defence of it.   For there's true value in those rights and freedoms - power and money to be had.

Today in North America democracy is not flourishing.  It is being economically and politically undermined, it's declining power siphoned off to an emerging oligarchy.   Instruments of democracy are being harnessed into the service not of the public but of special interests, almost entirely corporate.  We are witnessing the gradual union of political and corporate power which was, to Benito Mussolini, the very essence of modern fascism.

A voting public is a hurdle to anti-democratic forces but far from insurmountable.  There are various means by which the public franchise can be weakened.  Why chase informed consent when misinformed or manipulated consent will do just as well?   Consent, like just about everything else, can be manufactured with the right tools and enough money.

Three of those tools, the hallmarks of anti-democratic charlatans, are secrecy, deception and fear.   Hide your purpose, create in your own supporters a misapprehension of facts and make them fearful or distrustful of those who stand in your way.   Every despot and would-be tyrant understands those techniques and never hesitates to employ them.  With them he weakens, sometimes subverts, existing democratic institutions and their connection with the public.  He insinuates himself between those institutions and the public.  He becomes the public face of those institutions.  In this way he comes to rule rather than merely govern.

We seem to have just such a Ruler in Canada at the moment and he's expected to be our overlord for the next four, perhaps five years.   His alone will be the face of the government.  As in any organization, underlings will be appointed to carry out his will but their every step, their every word will be prescribed by their overlord.   They will do as he directs them to do, they will say what he directs them to say if, indeed, they say anything at all.

Officially he is prime minister but that is a title he does not deserve.  He has no love, no faith in parliamentary democracy.  He has repeatedly shown his abject contempt for Parliament.  It does not suit his imperial ways.   If he could not honour Parliament while leading a minority government, why would he honour it now that he is relieved of all restrictions?   With a sophomoric popinjay leading the opposition, the Ruler will have no need to engage Parliament at all.  He may rule by fiat.

Watch for the Ruler to move boldly and swiftly.   Henceforth his only real opposition won't be in the House of Commons much less the Senate but down the road, in the Supreme Court of Canada.   The Ruler will be desperate to reconfigure Canadian democracy and to do that he will have to ideologically pervert the highest court of the land.   He will seek to transform it into the political waterboy like its counterpart in Washington.   A Supreme Court with a majority beholden to the Ruler instead of the country vests complete power in the Ruler.

This promises to be a difficult, possibly even dangerous, four or five years for Canadian democracy.  We will be challenged to find ways, outside of the doldrums of the Commons, to uphold and defend our democratic legacy.  The same forces at play in the United States won't pass up the opportunity to empower the Ruler to achieve the same ends in our country.


LeDaro said...

Mound, excellent analysis. It looks scary. Since May 2nd the man, the ruler, walks with a swagger and talks differently like a dictator should. It is a rough ride for the next 4-5 years. NDP is more like NDQ now. What Canadians can do to protect some vestiges of democracy during next 4-5 years? We may not recognize Canada as we know it now by 2015.

Anonymous said...

It's not fair to blame the NDP, they are powerless under Harpcons Dictatorship, but I bet you will continue beating that drum for the next 4-5 years. Because your party lost, the party you are disaffected with, the party you don't believe in. Really what is to blame is the electoral system. A Iggy Liberal opposition would have been equally noneffective against the harpcon majority. Other then your seemingly required opposition bashing, I quite agree with your analysis.

It reminds me of the quote (that I will likely misquote a bit), those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither, and will lose both.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry, Anon, but there's nothing remotely unfair in castigating Mr. "50 +1" Layton. Dippers are always quick to overlook their failures but that comes with the sophomoric outlook. Ignatieff deserved to be roundly criticized - for the benefit of Canada and the LPC - and I didn't hesitate as you've noted. Just because Jack, son of Jacques, has stepped up to give us soft-separatists in 24 Sussex Drive and Stornoway, I won't hesitate to call out either of them. Don't waste your breath prattling on about an Iggy Liberal opposition. That's not going to happen. Layton doesn't strengthen Canada. He weakens it and yet again serves as Harper's handmaiden.

BTW, I'm realistic enough to grasp that the Liberal's way back involves stomping the Dippers back to the gutter. Turnaround is, after all, fair play. They have absolutely no right to bitch. It's quite telling how many true Jacobin Dippers remain fixated on attacking the Libs. Then again, Harper was never their true adversary, was he?

The Mound of Sound said...

@LD - Yeah, I think of it as the NBQ, the Nouveau Bloc Quebecois. It's a party that seems to have an abiding tolerance for hypocrisy. They spent decades condemning the Liberals but now can't shed their old pink skins fast enough so they can become Latter Day Libs. It's an amusing farce now that the weasels are caught out in the light.

Anonymous said...

So the NDP were first irrelevant. Then they are too far left. Then we need leadership that is willing to really change things. So then they are to centered, but also too far left that they make the libs vote right. And now they are evil separatists.

I know I won't convince you, and you can convince me with evidence that they are the devil, but I don't think you really care what my opinion is on them so that's ok.

All I am saying is we have a common enemy and he doesn't reside at Stornoway. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I would have voted orange, red, green, or whatever was most likely to counter the blue in my riding. A pointless exercise given my location and our electoral system to be perfectly honest.

The Mound of Sound said...

They didn't have to reject the Clarity Act. They didn't have to espouse the separatist "50 + 1" line. Those were choices they made quite deliberately that would jeopardize my country if adopted. I'm not even sure they really believe that nonsense but I suspect that beliefs are not particularly grounded in the NDP, at least not when political opportunism, their sport of choice, is a factor.

We don't have a "common" enemy. Layton's exploitative attack on Ignatieff, the clever boy move that gave him Stornoway at the cost of a Harper majority, made that decisively clear. Layton and Harper have a long, happy and successful track record together. Their symbiotic interaction in the past three elections is conclusive on that fact.

Be that as it may, Layton has chosen to position his party, the supposed "loyal" opposition, in the very same posture of every separatist movement in Quebec. It was a Faustian choice. He made it. His party's position imperils the unity of my country. Perhaps you're fine with that. I'm not.

crf said...

Layton having these crap positions is a punch in the gut to any idea of electoral cooperation for the NDP and Libs. Conservative Majority Forever!

This is so dangerous. If Harper decides to be a neo-con idiot with his majority, then it is quite possible for the Bloc to win and have a separation referendum.

Anonymous said...

Wikileaks say, the N.A.U. is on the way. The Americans say they were just waiting for Harper's majority to implement the N.A.U. starting in small increments.

The U.S. citizens are dead set against the N.A.U. They do not want the merge of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico as one nation. The Americans despise Harper. They say Harper's election win was rigged. There is a petition with presscore, to try Harper and Peter MacKay for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They say, Harper should be tried for treason. We will be known as the Mexcanaricans. Our currency will be, the Amero dollar. The American people are going to fight the N.A.U. to the last ditch. They have no faith in us "wussy" Canadian people, standing up for ourselves.

Wikileaks said, the American politicians say, Harper is a petty gasbag. We know Harper is famous as, arrogant, stubborn, and has no ability in getting along with other country's.

Jack Layton doesn't have a hope in hell, of Harper working with him.